Live at CMJ: The Blakes

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photo by Doron Gild

review and interview by Miriam Lamey
photos by Doron Gild

The Blakes closed Day 3 at the Gibson Studios with a good-natured, truly rocking set. Playing Snow Keim (bass, vocals), Garnet Keim (guitar, vocals) and Bob Husak (drums) played a range of their material, including the swaggering, confrontational “Don’t Bother Me” and the dreamier, Beatles-like “Village Green.” The edgy yet cheerful set was a great teaser for The Blakes’ CMJ performances later this week. The lads are about to embark on an extensive tour of both the East and West coasts, finishing up in early December.

After their performance, I sat down for a quick chat with The Blakes. It turned out to be a random yet entertaining conversation that gave an insight into the guys’ enthusiasm for their music and their laid-back, and also rather quirky, personalities.

Miriam: Your new album [out this week on Light in the Attic] — what’s it about?

Snow: It’s about real life

Garnet: It’s not about politics!

Miriam: What inspired you when you were writing it?

Garnet: It was written over a long period of time.

Snow: We write songs because we like to write songs and now we’ve written for so long that we can’t stop writing songs.

Garnet: I think it’s just a reflection of our lives, you know?

Snow: It’s like I said, it’s just life. We’re not trying to write particular types of songs we just write. That’s how it is.

Bob: Some things are about stuff — they’re a little more distinct.

Garnet: But still, we bring it back to life.

Snow: I’m saving that for a book.

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Miriam: So you’re going to write a book?

Snow: I’m telling you too much right now!

Miriam: Oh, it’s classified? Awesome. So you have a quote where you say, “It’s not the chord or the structure of the song, really that makes the song, it’s the vibe.” What exactly makes is the vibe that you want to try and transmit?

Garnet: Well, we really wanted to make a fun record, like, I don’t know why but I feel like a lot of the indie thing is more emotional — emotionally based — and that’s a great thing but we wanted to do something different where it was just about having a good time, almost in the vein of bands like AC/DC and the Stones, you know, like cool bands.

Miriam: Does that make the structure of your songs more simple?

Snow: No. I think we tend to break it down to a fun beat, you know?

Garnet: I don’t think so. I mean, it’s pretty spontaneous like when you’re making demos with a band, you’re like, “This is a fun beat, this is a fun sound.” It’s never thought out. We don’t really try to make it more difficult.

Snow: We couldn’t do that — it would sound terrible.

Miriam: How do you write songs? What’s the songwriting process like for you guys?

Snow: Well, I call Bob and I tell him about my day…naah.

[Laughter]

Snow: We do a lot of demos and if all the demos all fly and we like it then we bring them to the band and we add parts and change some things. Most of the time it starts with a good demo and the more demos we do it’s like doing your pre-production at home so you save yourself money.

Garnet: Sometimes we’ll just sit down. Two times we sat down and it happened in about eight minutes, and we just started jamming and that was that. It came out okay.

Snow: Everybody goes to the casino and not everybody wins.

Miriam: That’s a good way of putting it.

Snow: We lost a lot.

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Miriam: I was going to ask about that. I’ve read some background information on you guys and you seem to have been though a lot and had deal with a lot of crap, basically. What about making music made you want to keep going?

Garnet: It’s really addictive, the high you get.

Snow: It’s better than drugs.

Garnet: It’s better than anything I’ve ever experienced. It’s just great. It’s a great high.

Snow: Depending on the show and depending on the drugs.

Garnet: It’s just fun as hell.

Miriam: People try to describe your music in a variety of ways, like garage-rock, for example and just sort of throw you into a genre. How do you feel about associations like that? How would you define yourselves?

Garnet: Like, groovy…those guys are groovy. I think that’s cool, man.

Snow: I agree.

Miriam: In your opinion, what’s the best gig you’ve ever played?

Snow: Best gig? I’m going to feel like a fool now that I look back at the footage, but I would say Bumbershoot. I had a blast there.

Miriam: What are you guys listening to at the moment?

Garnet: I was just talking about Slade earlier; Bob turned me on to Slade and somehow I missed that and I love it. I love Slade right now. Not all the songs, but they have some great songs.

Miriam: “Because I love you” — that song? Awesome?

Snow: I’ve been having a love affair with Serge Gainsbourg. Just playing it every day: sometimes more than every day.

Bob: I love that guy. He’s good.

Miriam: You mention William Blake a lot. Do you consider that an influence?

Snow: We called ourselves The Blakes because we were listening to a lot of The Smiths at the time and it thought it was a good idea, it was just kind of simple and non-descript. It gave us a lot of room to do a lot of work. Interviewers make up that Blake stuff.

Garnet: Well, there was a William Blake exhibit going on at the same time when I had my dream about William Blake, so I guess it’s not all BS.

Snow: Peter Blake actually designed the Sgt. Peppers cover.

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